128.: malthus to ricardo1[Reply to 127.—Answered by 130] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815.
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malthus to ricardo
[Reply to 127.—Answered by 130]
E I Coll Octr 11th 1815
My dear Sir,
I returned from Town yesterday where I had been spending some days with my brother previous to his leaving England for Italy. I was quite sorry to find upon receiving your letter, that I had missed seeing you in Town. I wish you could make it up to me by coming down for a couple of nights before you return to Gatcomb. We could then look over together your remarks upon the Bank, and determine whether it would be adviseable to publish them. If you can give us a couple of days now, I will try and return them to you during the Xmas vacation at Gatcomb, if I possibly can. I think it possible that we may be going another way next summer.
You have rather misapprehended my illustration from Otaheite. I did not mean, that from want of skill their capital yielded but little, though their soil was extremely fertile; but that from the nature of their products, consisting chiefly of the spontaneous fruits of the earth, scarcely any advances in the shape of capital were necessary, and consequently that all the richness of their soil must go to rents and labour, but chiefly to rents.
I have always distinctly allowed, and ever shall allow in future that any causes which tend to make land less in demand will lower rents. I only want to make you allow, according to the same great principle of supply and demand, that any causes which tend to make capital less in demand, will lower profits; but you appear to me to except profits from the laws which operate upon all other commodities, and will not allow that they will be low for the same reasons that the rents of land and the wages of labour are low.
You are astonished that I maintain that when land is limited in quantity, the facility of production upon it will go mainly to rent and that though it might yield 60 fold instead of ten, profits might be only 8 per cent. Now I would ask distinctly what would happen with respect to profits in a country limited to 100,000 acres all of the richest conceivable quality, yet peopled and capital’d up to the utmost limits of its produce. Would not both the profits of stock and the wages of labour be very low, although the quantity of produce yielded by a given capital including rent might be 100 per cent. I believe I mentioned to you some farms in Scotland the value of the produce of which compared with the capital employed is 56 per cent: and I have very little doubt that the whole landed produce of great Britain is much above twenty per cent on the whole of the labour and capital employed upon the soil, and yet the common profits of farming stock and of other stock in general are not more than ten per cent. Are not these instances of the benefit derived by rents from the fertility of our soil, and our skill in agriculture; and if both were greatly to improve, would not rents very greatly rise, as soon at least as the population had reached the limits of the more abundant produce which would be in a short time comparatively. Fertility is in fact the essence of high rents, and low rents are the necessary result of barrenness however scarce corn may be. If land will support no more than those who work upon it, there can be no rent.
I am rather surprised that you do not see the distinction between productiveness of industry and productiveness of capital which I still think most important. They often go together but by no means always. The machine which does the work of five people, yields often no more profit than the commonest instrument.—
I have not time to read over my letter you must take it as it is
Ever truly Yours
T R Malthus